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Staying Focused With ADHD

With Attention Deficit Disorder more prevalent today, staying focused on a teacher or an assignment can be challenging for many students struggling with this. Though this can be stressful for a teacher or parent to navigate through, it can most importantly be frustrating and troubling for the growing – or grown – student.  As they go through elementary, junior high, high school, and even into university, it can be overwhelming and disheartening for those who need to put extra effort into focusing on their studies. 


The earlier someone can learn and try to master solid, manageable techniques, the more prepared they will be later on as they utilize these skills while taking on heavier, more demanding academic (and career-centred) tasks. 


The important thing to note before offering some support on this topic is that many people struggle with this, and it is nothing to feel ashamed about. Both children and adults can experience that which accompanies ADHD. Though we understand that there are many levels of severities and layers to the complexity, our goal is to provide some practical tips that have proved successful for others in this regard. 


Deep Breathing 


We have mentioned deep breathing as being helpful for alleviating test anxiety, so it should be no surprise that it has proven successful in helping students with ADHD. 


Dr. Richard Brown, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, has been using strategic deep breathing techniques with his clients to help them alleviate their ADHD symptoms. According to this article posted in Attitude (A good resource for those wanting to understand more about ADHD), it writes:


“Your autonomic nervous system (ANS) has two components: stress response and a recharge response. Adults and children with ADHD have nervous systems that are out of whack: Most of the time the stress and recharge responses are under-active. But when the stress response kicks in for an individual with ADHD, it goes into high gear, compared to those who don’t have the condition. For your brain to work better — and for you to be less impulsive and hyperactive — both components of the ANS need to work optimally and in the right balance. Coherent breathing can help accomplish these goals.”


Furthermore, Dr. Brown says that “Amazing things happen in the body and brain when you slow down your breathing to five or six full breaths a minute,”. Deep strategic breathing exercises have been proven to be a successful remedy for many challenging areas. Dr. Adam Story, a chiropractor who helps his patients benefit through deep breathing, has released a 10-minute video guiding people on practical strategies, and also delves into various benefits that come with regular deep breathing. For young children, we suggest a simple, child-friendly guided breathing exercise like this


Practice focusing on one thing at a time, and not moving on to the next task until the first one is complete. This is a big challenge for those struggling with ADHD, as their mind is always trying to wander away from the task at hand and onto the next thing. To help with this, Attitude has published another helpful article titled How To Finish What You Start. Along with their practical advice on how to begin practicing this, they summarize by stating that “To improve your ADHD management, feed your brain by improving sleep, eating well, and exercising. Be intentional with your time, avoid distractions, and practice self-care. Then you’ll be on the road to task-management success.” This is one that takes time and practice, but we truly believe that creating and maintaining consistent new and healthy habits does change the structure of your brain – as a human brain is proving changeable with habitual effort, something we have mentioned in a previous article, Plasticity and your Brain.


Plan rewards for when efforts are met with success. By planning praise and rewards to enjoy when tasks are completed through these efforts ahead of time, an individual has something to look forward to – an incentive and celebration for overcoming another challenge. Much like our advice when it comes to getting through the end of the year whilst distracted by the beautiful weather, having something to look forward to when accomplishing tasks can prove to be quite beneficial in goal completion. Celebrate the wins! In the end, they are what we want to be focused on the most. 


Give yourself scheduled, frequent breaks. It can be useful to set a timer for planned, undistracted zeroed focusing. When the timer goes off, allow yourself to get up, drink some water, take a little walk, stretch etc. This would also be a good time to practice some of those deep, relaxing breathing techniques. Then when it is time to get back to it, set the timer again, and repeat. This has proven successful for many students with ADHD. 


Take Control ADHD published a wonderful article with a plethora of information on utilizing various ‘timer’ techniques. The strategy we mention here in this article is called the Pomodoro Technique. It was created and coined by a college student the name of Francesco Cirillo. He was struggling with focusing efficiently, and so wanted to figure out a way to combat this. It had proven so successful that he wrote a book about it. Many people benefit from this technique, which came about in the 1980s, still to this very day. Francesco suggests setting a 25-minute timer, taking a 5-minute break, and upping the time of “Pomodoro” every 4 intervals. Read more about the intriguing Pomodoro Technique here. 


With the right tools, and added support of a one-on-one tutor to help guide a student in their academic journey, we believe that all individuals young and old have the capability to reach their goals – no matter the challenges they need to overcome. 


If you are struggling with your studies due to ADHD, or are simply struggling to stay focused due to other reasons, there is support available – and we are but one phone call away. 


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” —Aristotle

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